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    Rush pointed me to a Reddit AMA session with a bunch of the Runic Games employees from earlier today. The chat was mostly about Torchlight 2, but as the “ask me anything” classification promises, there were quite a few questions about Diablo and Blizzard. I went through the transcript and pulled those, gave them some formatting, and you can read them all below.

    The devs were polite and cordial so there’s nothing real shocking or controversial, but both Max and Erich Schaefer offered some interesting critiques of Diablo III; mostly focused on the way the item system and the Auction House forces players to buy loot, instead of finding it by playing.

    Did you make any changes to Torchlight II based on how Diablo 3 players reacted to the changes Blizzard implemented to the Diablo franchise? If so, what changes were made as a result?
    Marsh Lefler: With all honestly I can say I can’t think of a single thing we changed. We knew what game we were making and by the time Diablo 3 came out there was little time to change the core mechanics of our game. ( we had to be out by end of summer! )

    Matt Tanwanteng (Tiamat): Actually, not a whole lot. Given the direction of their game versus what we were doing, their design decisions didn’t really end up affecting ours. This biggest change I believe we made in response was renaming our first dungeon because it was also named the Defiled Crypt.

    I believe the current team at Blizzard has not just failed, but butchered what you guys created in their version of “Diablo” 3. I know I am very partial to Diablo 2, but anyone who has played D1/D2 and then goes to play Diablo 3 can easily tell that this does not have the same passion and heart in it as you and your team had when creating the world of Diablo. How do you feel about Diablo 3? I mean both of you; really tell me the truth here. Also, what would you have done differently?
    Erich Schaefer: I don’t believe the D3 team has failed or butchered anything. They made an awesome game that I enjoyed a lot. These games are incredibly hard to make. I see a lot of passion in what they did. That said…

    re: D3, while I think its a tremendous accomplishment, there’s a couple things they did that really hurt my personal ability to keep playing. The auction house, even the regular one, detracts from my own loot gathering. I hate seeing all the great stuff that’s so easy to purchase and is so much better than what I can find on my own.

    The other big thing is the character customization. I really have no clue where this idea that what aarpgs need is fewer customization choices came from. I want to make a character that succeeds or fails based on my decisions. And after that I want to make another and then another that are totally different. I guess there a lot of people that don’t want to carve their own way through these games, but for me it’s critical.

    That was just a quick excerpt; click through for a lot more.

    Transcript taken from the Reddit AMA chat. Full transcript here.

    Are you guys tired of being asked Diablo 3 questions?
    Erich Schaefer: YES!

    Can we ask you about Hellgate and Mythos instead?
    Erich Schaefer: Go ahead, but make it fast. Trying to wrap this up and get back to work (and by that I mostly mean trying out FTL).

    Did you make any changes to Torchlight II based on how Diablo 3 players reacted to the changes Blizzard implemented to the Diablo franchise? If so, what changes were made as a result?
    Marsh Lefler: With all honestly I can say I can’t think of a single thing we changed. We knew what game we were making and by the time Diablo 3 came out there was little time to change the core mechanics of our game. ( we had to be out by end of summer! )

    Matt Tanwanteng (Tiamat): Actually, not a whole lot. Given the direction of their game versus what we were doing, their design decisions didn’t really end up affecting ours. This biggest change I believe we made in response was renaming our first dungeon because it was also named the Defiled Crypt.

    How good is the relationship between Max Schaefer, Erich Schaefer, David Brevik and Bill Roper in 2012? Does the original Condor team still talk and have a good relationship? I believe these names to be the greatest combination of minds in gaming.
    Erich Schaefer: Max and I are pretty tight, seeing as we’re brothers, live in the same building and work at the same job. Still great friends with Brevik and Roper. I don’t see them as often as I’d like, especially Bill, who’s moved away, but we share some long time bonds forged by some of the best times and worst times. I don’t keep up too much with the old Condor team, except Matt Uelmen and Peter Hu, and a few guys that were friends from even before Condor, but its great to see them at conventions or the occasional drinking fest.

    “One of the key reasons for the closure was Blizzard North’s poor development of what was to be Diablo III which did not meet the expectations of Vivendi” –Question 1, Do you agree with the previous reasoning behind the B.North split? If not, what is your reason, the real reason?
    Erich Schaefer: That reason is a joke! Never heard it before, though. The reasons we split were many, but the main one was that Vivendi was shopping our studio around to buyers with no input from us, the team (both Bliz North and South). And the process was taking a long time, during which they kept deferring renegotiating our bonus structure. (Our profitability was still growing, but the bonus structure wasn’t keeping up with it due to a lot of complex crap.) So we said: “hey, either we get some say in this stuff… you know, our whole future… or we’re going to resign.” And they said: buh-bye. Another reason for me personally was just sort of some wanderlust, though. It was time for some new adventures. I was getting fat and lazy at Blizzard.

    I believe the current team at Blizzard has not just failed, but butchered what you guys created in their version of “Diablo” 3. I know I am very partial to Diablo 2, but anyone who has played D1/D2 and then goes to play Diablo 3 can easily tell that this does not have the same passion and heart in it as you and your team had when creating the world of Diablo. How do you feel about Diablo 3? I mean both of you; really tell me the truth here. Also, what would you have done differently?
    Erich Schaefer: I don’t believe the D3 team has failed or butchered anything. They made an awesome game that I enjoyed a lot. These games are incredibly hard to make. I see a lot of passion in what they did. That said…

    re: D3, while I think its a tremendous accomplishment, there’s a couple things they did that really hurt my personal ability to keep playing. The auction house, even the regular one, detracts from my own loot gathering. I hate seeing all the great stuff that’s so easy to purchase and is so much better than what I can find on my own.

    The other big thing is the character customization. I really have no clue where this idea that what aarpgs need is fewer customization choices came from. I want to make a character that succeeds or fails based on my decisions. And after that I want to make another and then another that are totally different. I guess there a lot of people that don’t want to carve their own way through these games, but for me it’s critical.

    As a hiring authority myself I have a great understanding of IT contracting and I have often wondered if the bad blood between you and Blizzard has prevented them from at least allowing you two to consult on the Diablo 3 project, to lend your expertise as creators and founders of the world of Diablo. Did you ever get asked by Blizzard to consult or 1099 for the D3 project? If not, how big of a mistake do you think this was? I really cannot fathom their thought process, trying to create something without the heart (Max) and Brain (Erich, sorry Max) behind the entire concept of Diablo. PS: Do you foresee working on the Diablo 3 Expansion, after such negative feedback Blizzard has received on their Diablo 3, do you think they will consider working with you two for the Expansion? Would you even want to?
    Erich Schaefer: No, Blizzard never asked me to consult. Nor would they ever – its not their culture and rightfully so. Nor would I have accepted. I have to be an intrinsic part of the team or not be involved at all. I don’t think it was a mistake on their part. That team has to grow and coalesce together without outside distractions. It would have been just weird as hell, probably… There’s no way I could ever see working on another Diablo product with one extremely improbable exception. If I could afford to buy back the rights, I would in a heartbeat. And then I’d turn it over to David Brevik, the true Heart and Brain behind Diablo.

    If you could re-unite the entire original Blizzard North Team (David Brevik, Bill Roper) to work on a Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 Movie, would you? (Please!!) If so, which director would you want to work on a Diablo movie? Any actor choices in mind for the main cast!?
    Erich Schaefer: A Diablo movie would be fantastic. But I’m not the guy to do it. That would of course be Uwe Boll. (Actually Roper would be the man.) This is all goofy talk, of course. It’s not going to have anything to do with me if it ever does happen.

    What are your personal favorite characters from the Diablo universe and why?
    Erich Schaefer: My favorite characters from the Diablo universe are every character I created and developed, and chose skills for, and equipped, and kicked Diablo’s ass with. I have no love for the NPCs other than Cain. And the cocktail midget.

    I don’t want to turn this into a shit-sling but I was really wondering what your thoughts on Diablo III are – both the positives and the negatives.
    Max Schaefer: I’m happy to answer this. We know how hard it is to make games like this, so we have a lot of respect for Blizzard and the Diablo III team. Even if they made choices that are different than ours or those of some of their customers, you cannot make a game of that magnitude, polish, and quality without a dedicated and talented team. Of course their launch was not perfect (whose are?), but they seem to be working hard to address player issues, and I think those who are negative towards them should give them some time to make adjustments. We are happy to provide an alternative, though, too. The genre is big enough for a lot of approaches and styles. I personally am happy for Diablo III, Path of Exile, Borderlands 2, Grim Dawn, and the other ARPGs that are revitalizing the genre. And we are all at least a little bit in debt to Blizzard and the D3 team for bringing literally millions of new gamers into our genre.

    Making games is physically and emotionally exhausting. It’s distressing to see the level of criticism people engage in when they aren’t 100% satisfied, and while they certainly have a right to their opinions (we all have ’em), at the same time we should have an authentic respect for those who spend years of their lives pouring their talents into these games. Runic Games respects and admires Blizzard for all they have done for our industry.

    Diablo 3. Do any of you play it? What parts do you like/dislike most?
    Matt Tanwanteng (Tiamat): I played it to 60 when it came out, then I played about a paragon level and a half after 1.04. The combat is great, and being able to play around with spell combinations is a lot of fun. I dislike having to spend time on the auction house.

    I don’t have a good question, I just wanted you to know that instead of preordering Torchlight II, I blew my money on Diablo 3 and got majorly burned. What would you say to customers in my position, who are maybe afraid to spend the money on a similar game in case the same thing happens?
    Max Schaefer: I suspect that they will patch Diablo3 and make adjustements that make a lot of people more satisfied. However, in the meantime, please look at our videos, press, reviews, and see what we’ve done differently. A lot of what people complained about in D3 are not present in Torchlight II. We think the vast majority if people will be pleased with what we’ve done. Plus, it’s only $20, so your risk is low even if it’s not your cup of tea.

    Interesting answers and questions, eh? I’ve not played that much TL2 yet; just a few hours with an Engineer, but I immediately noticed both things Erich mentioned in this chat. The fun of finding good items, including sets and uniques all the time, and the fact that there’s some RP in the G.

    Diablo III is fun in a lot of ways, but the lack of any thought or decision ever required for character building is weird. Every time I level up in TL2 it takes me a minute to remember that I just got a skill point and some stat points, that I can assign them where I want, and that it will make a big difference in how my character plays. It’s almost scary at first, with the “don’t want to screw up my build” paralysis, but soon enough I just took a different attitude. “This is my first char, he’ll probably suck in the end, but I’m going to have fun now.” So I am.

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